Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blackhat

As a shadowy hacker causes a nuclear meltdown at a reactor in China, the camera dives into a series of wires and flies through the microscopic highways of a computer chip, lights indicating the 1s and 0s that are altered to trigger the disaster. It's a cheesy CGI moment reminiscent of something you'd see in a 1990s movie about hacking, and director Michael Mann uses the gimmick twice in the first ten minutes. Things do not get better from there.

Blackhat
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Faults (AFI Fest 2014)

Not too long ago, a handful of films about cults were released within the span of about a year. Martha Marcy May MarleneSound of My VoiceThe East, and The Master were four of the biggest, and though these films all dealt with portraying cults in slightly different ways, it felt as if there was something in the air; it seemed as if suddenly all of these filmmakers were making small, independent films about cults. If you pay attention to this kind of stuff, it might strike you that Riley Stearns' freshman feature, Faults, is a couple of years late to the party - after all, the plot revolves around a man hired to pull a girl out of a cult lifestyle and "deprogram" her. But this movie is an assured directorial debut that clearly stands on its own. A taut, hypnotizing thriller with dynamic performances all around, Faults is a terrific example of the power of low budget filmmaking.

Faults
Writer/Director: Riley Stearns

Starring: Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lance Reddick



Friday, October 24, 2014

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler, writer/director Dan Gilroy's film depicting the subculture of videographers who sell sensationalist footage of crimes and crashes, could have been set in any city with a major news market. But it's no accident the film is set in Los Angeles. Though the movie doesn't lean too heavily on Hollywood's iconography, the idea of using Tinseltown as a backdrop is perfect for a film that concentrates on a man willing to twist (and sometimes create) narratives for his own benefit. It's a meta-commentary about storytelling itself, and anchored by strong performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, Nightcrawler provides a dark, ugly look at the line between news and sensationalism.

Nightcrawler
Writer/Director: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton




Friday, October 17, 2014

Birdman

Bursting at the seams with metaphors, themes, and symbolism, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman teeters on the brink of becoming too busy for its own good. This is a film with a lot on its mind, and while it never delivers anything breathtakingly original, it explores interesting thematic material in mesmerizing fashion: cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) shoots the film in a series of long continuous shots stitched together to give the effect that the movie is essentially one long take.

Birdman
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts